Ten Things to do in Abu Dhabi in 2023
By Richard Jones
The United Arab Emirates is one of the world’s fastest growing holiday destinations.
And although Dubai is likely to the first place you think of when planning a trip to the UAE, the country’s capital and cultural heart, Abu Dhabi, is a far more appealing Emirate.
Abu Dhabi has grown rapidly in recent decades, with the population jumping from 40,000 in the 1960s to nearly three million today.
However, rather than trying to make itself pan global (a place that appeals to all), it is proudly holding on to its roots, beliefs, heritage and the Emirati culture.
Here, we take a look at 10 things that will see more and more people flocking to the Manhattan of the Middle East in 2023.
The magnificent Zayed National Museum is not only incredible to look at, but also chronicles the phenomenal transformation that the UAE has undergone since it was founded in 1971. Elsewhere, the super-modern Louvre museum on Saadiyat Island, has loaned works by Matisse, Da Vinci and Van Gogh from its French namesake. In March 2023, the world-famous Middle East Film & Comic Con will unite movie, TV and comic lovers, while 2025 will see the opening of Abu Dhabi’s very own Guggenheim.
Seventeen-time Grammy Award winner Sting arrives at Etihad Arena on January 27 as part of his critically acclaimed My Songs tour. For kids, popular children’s entertainer and educator Blippi is bringing an energetic, live musical show Blippi The Musical to the same venue in February. And finally in March, the popular Wireless Festival, which has, in recent years focused on hip hop and other urban music, in addition to rap, is heading to Yas Island.
The second edition of the Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants will be unveiled on January 30, 2023. The culinary-themed showcase sees the region’s gastronomes pour into UAE’s capital to celebrate the greatest dining destinations across 19 countries. In 2022, it was the much-loved 3 Fils in Dubai that claimed the prestigious title, with Alan Yau’s ground-breaking Abu Dhabi eatery Hakkasan, housed in the Emirates Palace, not far behind. Who will be triumphant this year?
Experience the thrill of cruising through the desert away from the hustle and bustle of the city with an evening safari and barbecue dinner at a Bedouin-style camp tucked into the iconic sand dunes. Race over the rolling hills in a 4×4, sand board down them at breakneck speeds, climb atop a camel for a once-in-a-lifetime experience or even rent a quad bike. There is also henna painting, sheesha smoking and belly dancing shows.
Abu Dhabi is a place defined by incredible architecture, and the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque tops most tourist agendas. One of the world’s most striking mosques, it was built to represent diversity across different Muslim civilisations, with architects from all over the world, including those from the UK, responsible for its design. Qasr Al Watan is a working presidential palace and majestic cultural landmark that invites you to discover how knowledge and tradition has shaped the UAE.
The best place to experience Abu Dhabi’s natural environment is in the Jubail Mangrove Park. The UAE’s first self-contained nature and leisure destination is an unimaginably green and lush haven, filled with exotic marine life and birds. As well as being able to walk the park’s boardwalk, visitors can also book kayaks (including incredible night-glow kayaks), SUPs and electric dragon boats. Compared to the sterile cityscapes, this tropical park is a reminder of what Abu Dhabi’s natural environment once was.
Located on the Marina Mall Island close to the city centre, the Heritage Village offers a glimpse at Abu Dhabi’s past. Here you can shop, discover artefacts and watch artisans make pottery, blow glass and weave fabric on a loom. The village is also home to the Emirates Heritage Club, where you can watch craftsmen demonstrate traditional skills such as metalwork, pottery, weaving and spinning yarn. Don’t forget to check out the village’s little spice shop, which sells dried herbs, handmade soaps and souvenirs.
For centuries, Abu Dhabi has been a hub for trade and commerce. Ships would arrive from Asia laden with coveted goods like fine silks, cardamom, saffron, pearls and gold, which would be traded in the city’s souks. As you venture into these traditional marketplaces, lose yourself in narrow alleys lined with opulent Persian rugs, breathe in the woody scents of traditional oud perfume and frankincense, and engage in good-natured banter with local fishermen.
In November, motorsport fans will be flocking to city’s Yas Marina Circuit for the roar of F1 cars. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is a permanent fixture for adrenaline junkies and is home to the world’s fastest rollercoaster, Formula Rossa. For quieter surroundings, make tracks for the Corniche, the smart seaside boulevard framed by sandy beaches, shiny skyscrapers and the modern Marina Mall. There are also two other world-class theme parks within minutes of each other – Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi and Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi.
The crowning jewel in Abu Dhabi’s crown, the Emirates Palace Hotel, cost $3billion to build and carries an unofficial seven-star rating. If you can’t afford to stay there, head inside for a one-of-a-kind coffee instead. The Golden Cappuccino at the hotel’s Le Cafe is a delicious cup of fragrant coffee topped with the hotel’s logo, sprinkled with real 24-carat gold leaf, served on a silver tray, and accompanied with a sweet date, dark chocolate and a slice of cake. A snip at around $16.
TUI offers four nights bed and breakfast at the five-star Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort in Abu Dhabi from £843 per person. Price includes Etihad Airways flights from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi International and two adults sharing a classic double room with a city view. Go to tui.com
For more information about holidays in Abu Dhabi, please visit: visitabudhabi.ae